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SUVA, Fiji (July 14, 1998 - Asia-Pacific Network/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---An opposition Fijian political party has condemned a tough new emergency powers law which includes provisions for censorship and suppression of publications as an attempt by the Rabuka government to try to stall next year's general election.

A Fijian Association Party spokesman, Viliame Saulekaleka, was quoted in the Fiji Times today as saying the government was "looking for an excuse to use the emergency powers so that it can extend the life of this Parliament and delay facing people in the next election."

The Emergency Powers Act, passed by Fiji's Lower House on Friday afternoon, gives the president the power to declare a state of emergency following advice from cabinet.

The government would then be empowered to introduce emergency regulations, such as allowing premises to be to entered and searched without a warrant, seizing private property, banning public meetings, censoring news media, and arresting and deporting individuals.

The legislation is due to go to a special sitting of the Senate for final approval before being enacted.

While opposition Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry opposed the bill, demanding that government withdraw it and refer it to a select committee, Opposition Leader Jai Ram Reddy supported the legislation with the hope that it would never be invoked.

News media have strongly condemned the legislation with both daily newspapers, the Fiji Times and the Daily Post, publishing editorials especially critical of the powers relating to news organizations and publications.

The Daily Post last week cited a letter from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists to Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka condemning the legislation.

Asaeli Lave, president of the Fiji Islands Media Association, said the media would continue to oppose the law as a threat to media freedom and the right to know for the members of the public.

Critics claimed the legislation was rushed through because of major economic crises such as a protest boycott of the national sugar cane harvest - now lifted - and demands for about F$35 million in compensation by landowners at the strategic Monasavu Dam which supplies 90 per cent of the country's hydro-electric power.

Title -- 1545 MEDIA: Fiji Emergency Powers Act condemned Date -- 14 July 1998 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Asia-Pacific Network, 8/7/98 Status -- APN

See report 1538 and Pasifik Nius website for background information about the Monasavu power and sugar crises in Fiji and draft emergency powers legislation:

This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:

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